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As I write this ANZCA News, at a time when the Australian and New Zealand governments are announcing their budgets for 2012-13, I'm very aware of the financial constraints facing universities, which impact on our scholarship and teaching. The budget recently announced in Australia, and concerns currently being voiced about the budget soon to be announced in Aotearoa New Zealand, indicate that neither country has fully escaped the impact of the global recession. However, it seems that Australians are faring better than their trans-Tasman counterparts, with a return to surplus and a number of packages addressing health and disability issues, as well as aged care. In addition, first comments suggest a continuing commitment to higher education. Instead of cuts to research, there is a small increase for the promotion of maths and science, a small increase in the funding per student, and a goal of increasing student numbers to 770,000 over the next four years.

In contrast, New Zealanders face no extra money being available in this year's budget, simply some shuffling of priorities. In the tertiary education sector, cuts are forecast to the arts and humanities to enable moving funding away from humanities and commerce towards maths, science, engineering and technology. Evidence of cuts to the humanities is already being seen in proposals from Canterbury University in Christchurch to close Theatre and Film Studies, American Studies and Cultural Studies Departments. Such moves follow a period of capped enrolments at New Zealand universities and increasing competition for very limited research funding.

Most ANZCA scholars probably struggle, as I do, to manage their own day-to-day workload of research and teaching, and have little time (and sometimes little inclination) to engage in political lobbying. Too few of us enter into debates about higher education funding, and we have limited opportunities to engage in other forums related to our own communication interests, where our voices might be heard. The demands of ERA and PBRF audits mean that our writing priorities must always be aimed at internationally rated scholarly journals, with little time or energy remaining for opinion pieces in local media or blogs, or other involvement in business or not-for-profit organisations in an advisory capacity.

Australian scholars are fortunate that interest groups such as ANZCA are able to take part in the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS) and have some input into public policy debate--I'm not aware of any similar forum available to New Zealand interest groups. However, I would argue that it is important that ANZCA scholars, both as individuals and as an organisation, should more than ever seek opportunities to engage in public debate, and set up new forums where our expertise in the diverse fields of communication can facilitate ongoing recognition of the social, cultural and environmental implications of economic policy and of developments in science, engineering and technology.

Associate Professor Debashish Munshi and Associate Professor Priya Kurian from the University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand have set up a blog in relation to their work on the public understanding of science, which is one example of a great initiative to engage actively in critical debates about new technologies such as nanotechnology: see The plenary sessions at ANZCA 2011 with filmmaker Gaylene Preston and producer/director Tainui Stephens were also opportunities to appreciate how we can engage with the issues of our times through different media forums.

The ANZCA conference in Adelaide this year provides another showcase for the work of ANZCA scholars who are finding ways to participate in public forums. A plenary 'conversation' between Professor Terry Flew and Professor Matthew Ricketson will provide a unique opportunity to understand the various elements of the Australian media and how they are growing and changing. Professor Flew has been seconded from the Queensland University of Technology to act as a Commissioner of the National Classifications Review (see article in this issue of MIA), while the University of Canberra's Professor Ricketson is the adviser to the Independent Media Inquiry, set up by the federal government. I hope conference delegates will feel inspired to seek their own opportunities to get involved in public debate, and take up similar positions relevant to their own areas of expertise.

Organisation is well underway for the ANZCA 2012 conference, which will be co-hosted by the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia from 4-6 July. Co-convenors Chika Anyanwu and Kerry Green are busy making the final arrangements for the program and promise some surprises for conference participants. The presentations from ANZCA members and other delegates visiting Australia for the conference will provide fascinating snapshots of the diverse scholarship and teaching interests represented in the field of communication in the Asia Pacific region.

Keynote speakers at the conference include Stuart Allan, who is Professor of Journalism in the Media School and Director of the Centre for Journalism and Communication Research, Bournemouth University. Professor Allan's presentation, 'Citizen Witnessing of Crime and Terrorism', promises interesting insights into the apparent democratisation of citizen reporting.

Join us in Adelaide, city of culture, as we examine how media and communication institutions are communicating change, and how changes in communication technologies are affecting the way media and communication operate in the twenty-first century. See for details!

Nga mihi nui!

Alison Henderson

ANZCA President, 2011-12
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Title Annotation:Australian and New Zealand Communication Association
Author:Henderson, Alison
Publication:Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:May 1, 2012
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Next Article:Media classification: content regulation in an age of convergent media.

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